Former Brewers prospect shipped out in 2021 trade makes AL contender's starting rotation

Bowden Francis was a 7th round pick by the Brewers in 2017

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The Brewers are currently facing a starting pitching crisis as Wade Miley will be on the IL to start the year and Brandon Woodruff will miss the entire season on top of the departures of Corbin Burnes and Adrian Houser in trades. Yet one of their former prospects has made the starting rotation not in Milwaukee, but in Toronto.

Back in 2017, the Brewers selected Bowden Francis out of Chipola College in the 7th round of the MLB Draft. He rose up the ranks, making it to Triple-A as a starter and becoming a viable option for the big leagues, but he never debuted with Milwaukee.

In July 2021, the Brewers traded Bowden Francis to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for first baseman Rowdy Tellez. Milwaukee had a huge need at first base and filled it with Tellez but sent out Francis in the process. Back in 2021, that Brewers rotation was stacked and there was almost no hope of Francis cracking it. The Brewers traded from a position of strength to address a position of need.

Tellez himself was a great addition in 2021 and for 2022. He struggled in 2023 as injuries popped up and he was let go this past offseason, signing with the NL Central rival Pirates.

Even though Tellez has come and gone, Francis is still with the Blue Jays organization and he has not only made the Opening Day roster for Toronto, he's in the starting rotation. Soon to be 28 years old, Francis has appeared in 21 big league games for Toronto over the past two years and he's come out of the bullpen each time.

Francis has a 1.70 ERA in those 21 outings covering 37 IP. He's done so well in his opportunities and pitched well enough this spring to earn a rotation spot on a team that made the playoffs last year out of a crowded AL East.

That Blue Jays rotation is led by Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi, and Kevin Gausman. Alek Manoah is another top arm but he's going to start the year on the injured list, which opened up that rotation spot for Francis. While the former Brewers farmhand may not spend the entire season in the rotation for Toronto, he's clearly doing well with the Blue Jays and making the most of the opportunity he wasn't able to get while he was in Milwaukee.

The Rowdy Tellez trade worked out well for the Brewers. This by no means should be taken as the Brewers lost the trade or were wrong to trade Francis. The Blue Jays now just get to see the dividends on their end of the trade beyond just clearing Tellez in a roster crunch. The Tellez deal was a good move that's clearly worked out well for both sides and that's all GMs can ask for in trades.